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March 2, 2015 / 11 Adar , 5775
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Chanukah In Poland

        The Polish Jewish community held its first public menorah-lighting ceremony Sunday evening, the third night of Chanukah. In the past, the community traditionally held small gatherings outside Jewish community offices in Warsaw. But this year, a large public gathering of Jews and non-Jews participated in a menorah-lighting ceremony in Grzybowski Square near the Nozyk Synagogue.

 

         President Lech Kaczynski’s wife lit the giant menorah with the help of Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, and wished a joyous Chanukah to the hundreds of people gathered on the square. Other candles were lit by Israeli Ambassador David Peleg and Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz.

 

         On Monday night, the fourth evening of Chanukah, the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland (ZGZ) and the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland (TSKZ), together with other Jewish organizations, were invited by the President Kaczynsky to light a Chanukah menorah, for the first time in history, at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. Rabbi Schudrich led the recitation of blessings while President Kaczinsky lit the shammash.

 

 


Rabbi Michael Schudrich with Polish President Lech Kaczinsky and members of the Jewish community of Warsaw at Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony in the Presidential Palace.

 

 

         The menorah, a gift to the Presidential Palace, was made by a student in the Lauder Morasha School, the Jewish school of Warsaw, as part of an annual family menorah competition.

 

         The ZGZ and the TSKZ presented President Kaczynsky with a prayer for the welfare of the Polish state, written by Rabbi Moses Schor, a pre-Shoah rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw and a member of the Polish Parliament. The prayer was adorned by an original papercut done by Monika Krajewska, a leading local Jewish artist.

 

         Piotr Kadlcik, president of the ZGZ, explained the special meaning of Chanukah, especially for the Jews of Poland today.

 

         President Kaczynski said he was happy that representatives of the Jewish community came to the palace for this occasion. He said he understood that Chanukah is a holiday of joy that was celebrated in the homes of many Polish Jewish citizens. He emphasized that he was grateful that today’s local Jewish community is growing and strengthening itself and that the candles of Chanukah can again be seen in Poland.

 

         Rabbi Schudrich commented that Chanukah [Hanukkah] is a time of achieving the impossible. “Our reemerging Jewish community of Poland, so honored and recognized tonight by our president,” he said, “is a sure sign that the spirit of the Macabbees lives on in 2006.”

 

         Artur Hofman, president of TSKZ said, “This is particularly meaningful in a place that was believed to be only a Jewish cemetery; that in fact we have a living and active Jewish community.”

 

         Other communities throughout Poland also held Chanukah festivities, including group candle-lighting ceremonies and parties with latkes, jelly doughnuts (punchki in Polish) and dreidels.

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The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

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